Puzzles in a Pandemic

I have to admit, my first reaction to all the craziness about the epidemic was “Man, flights are getting cheap!”  At the onset, Christina and I were excited about the month of April and the ability to take quick trips to places like San Diego and Myrtle Beach at record low prices.

Then things REALLY got crazy.  Supplies started flying off the shelves and new restrictions started appearing every other day.  And now we’re concerned that if we book a flight, the chance is reasonably high that either the state we’re visiting or our home state will implement some rule that makes it impossible for us to return.

The virus was never really a concern for us.  Christina and I wash our hands all the time, and we’ve adhered to the “social distancing” guidelines.  We haven’t shied away from restaurants or escape rooms, but we always make sure to wash our hands immediately after touching anything that might be contaminated, and to never, ever touch our eyes, noses, or mouths.  We don’t come within a few feet of anyone at risk for serious complications, and we’re ready to isolate ourselves at the first sign of illness. I was concerned about my office conditions (we use entirely shared workspaces with very limited boundaries, and illness always cut through our office like a hot knife through butter), but when we got the guidance to work from home as much as possible, it felt like things were moving in the right direction.

Then came the restrictions.  The events went first. While I was disappointed that the sports leagues were shutting down, I understood that it made sense from a practical perspective.  But then the restrictions kept growing. Churches, social gatherings, and now restaurants- all closed in my hometown. And now, what comes next? Feels like only a matter of time before the airports go altogether.  Maybe grocery stores and gas stations next?

The other concern is how long this all goes for.  Given the nature of the virus, even reducing the number of cases down to <10 in the state might not be enough to justify rolling back the conditions.  After all, even a single case can bloom into a brand new outbreak if the infected party coughs on a dozen people at a hockey game.

Does that mean this is the new normal?  I don’t know. I feel for all the people whose livelihoods depend on customer traffic, especially those in food and tourism.  I feel for all those who are isolated from friends and family out of concern for spreading or catching the virus.

There are still plenty of puzzles out there.  I live close to three states, and I doubt all three are going to ban escape rooms (it might even slip under Illinois’s radar for a while, unless there’s a blanket ban on businesses).  I’ve got a few home games I can dip into as well as a massive stockpile of puzzle video games I downloaded on the Nintendo Switch. Red Bull’s Mind Gamers contests are still going. And I can always create something myself.  So whatever happens in the world, and however dire things get with our toilet paper supplies, at least we can keep on thinking, and training our minds for how to cope with challenges in ways other than blind panic.

I’m saying prayers for all those out there impacted by both the virus and by our society’s reaction to it.  If there’s any particular supply you’re short on, you can let me know; I can’t guarantee I can be any help (I tried finding the ingredients to make homebrew sanitizer and hand it out at churches around the area, but rubbing alcohol is nowhere to be found), but I may be able to ask around and find a willing donor.  And if you’re feeling at all symptomatic of COVID-19, by all means rest up, see a doctor, whatever you need to do. Be safe, be careful for the sake of those around you, and don’t live in fear.

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